‘FG looks to take-off interests in river ports development’

Transportation Minister,  Mr Rotimi Amaechi

With concerns about the need to develop river ports in Nigeria, as a way of expanding the economic revenue sources other than oil and gas, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi in this interview, said that investors’ interests in the sub-sector had not been encouraging, for the fact that the business viability of river ports must be backed by interests from investors who will handle the take-off projects.
The minister also speaks on the proposed Memorandum of Understanding that is expected to establish a transport university, besides other industry matters.
Excerpts:

What are the considerations for development of river ports as revenue sources for government?

We have developed Onitsha river port, what have they done with it? We are about concluding Baro port, what have these investors done? We will also finish the one in Lokoja, what will they do?
We have heard these stories of investors showing interests before. An investor came, and after his study he said it was not financially viable, but that they were ready to go into it if we would pay 50 per cent of the fund.

 I said the Federal Government would pay 50 per cent of the fund if they could just show us those who would handle the take-off. We don’t want to waste money. Whichever way it is, if we don’t have off-takers, it will be difficult because such ventures require to be properly managed from the onset.

When they say develop your river port, we have Onitsha and Baro, why are they not being used? You see government constructing those things and no businessman wants to take them up.
We have created awareness while they were dredging the river, because the President went to flag it off. The problem is that some people give excuses and want to mis-advice government.

Has the maritime industry audit started yet?

Much as we are keen on doing it, it has to follow the due process, which is still on it.

Has the ministry started plans on establishing the Transportation University?
Actually, in the course of our conversation with GE, we agreed that if we concession Lagos-Kano to them, they will have to build a university for training our people. We proposed that they could even convert our students to experts, so that we don’t allow them to continue to dump technology on us without knowing what to do with it. But the concession has not been done yet.

On need for policy reviews to improve maritime trade?

The truth is that we must face the reality that things have changed; the foreign exchange is no longer there, so we learn to work with what is on ground. Oil is now sold at about $50 dollars per barrel compared to when it was sold at over $100 dollars.

How will you address the issue of NPA relieving tally clerks of their jobs to employ cargo surveyors at the port?

NPA said they did not need the tally clerks anymore because the concessionaires have tally clerks.  So, it will be duplicating that same responsibility and paying two persons for the same job.

I supported NPA for holding that position because we don’t have that kind of money to waste, but NPA too cannot employ cargo surveyors.